Mark Franke: Well, I voted on Tuesday


I had been brooding about this for some time now and, in a particularly dark moment, determined to never vote again.

It may have been the better side of my nature that eventually overcame my psychological sturm und drang or it simply may have been intellect over emotion that resolved me.

I am not normally a negative or pessimistic person but my attitude could not withstand a barrage of negative advertising, the total lack of quality in the two presumptive major party nominees for president and the clown show performed daily in the halls of Congress. Even cheerful people can become depressed.

The primary ballot in Indiana and in my home county, Allen, offered several hotly contested races, if “contested” can be quantified by the number of candidates running. The Republican primary offered six options for governor and eight for third district congressman. Republicans certainly had a choice, several choices in fact.

Thus, the horrendous amount of negative advertising on TV and in the mail. I think I received at least one negative postcard every day and multiples each day as May 7 neared.

I learned, to my disgust, who was behind several of these attacking the presumed leader in one of the elections. Yes, it was an out-of-state organization and yes, it was funded by some powerful political interests. That was no surprise.

What I found interesting in a morbid way was the manner in which one of these postcards took a technically true fact and distorted its context to such an extent that it represented an outright lie. One who bases his or her entire knowledge of the candidate on this single postcard will think that the candidate believes the complete opposite of what he truly believes. To my simple way of thinking, that constitutes lying.

Why would these political action committees pour so much money into untruthful advertising? Do they have such a low opinion of the average voter to think this effective? Obviously the answer is yes. They have taken our measure and we have come up short. They view us as the “Animal Farm” sheep, obediently bleating on command. It must work or this amorphous “they” wouldn’t dump this much cash into this kind of advertising. That says more about us than about them.

It is no wonder that there are multiple grassroots reform groups springing up optimistically proposing changes in our election system. Some look to break the stranglehold of the two major parties by electoral changes that offer a real chance to third-party candidates. Others propose changes such as open primaries and ranked-choice voting to reduce the power of the extreme wings of both parties in the nomination process. And hopes spring eternal in the breast of the Convention of States movement which wants to amend the Constitution as a means of making the federal government more accountable.

The dishonest attacks on the candidate motivated me to go to the polls as my conscience insisted. Edmund Burke’s comment about what is necessary for the triumph of evil — that good men do nothing — may have been what pressed my conscience into action.

And so I voted again this year, just like I have voted in every primary and general election since I turned 21. It may seem like my vote doesn’t matter, which may be mathematically true but metaphysically wrong. Where is the tipping point if lots of us think that? And what moral authority do we as citizens have if we don’t vote, no matter how unappealing the choices presented?

Democracy depends on an informed and interested citizenry, which presents a conundrum. It seems to me at least the informed have lost interest and the interested are becoming less informed. Perhaps we have made it too easy to be either uninformed or disinterested or both. I blame 24-hour cable news networks for our malaise, but that is too easy although still fair.

The primaries are past and I have six months to wallow in cynicism again. Then, come November, Edmund Burke will prick my conscience once more and I will dutifully drive to the neighborhood church where my precinct votes. I will arrive at 6 a.m. when the polls open, probably standing in a cold rain as is the weather’s wont on election days. That physical misery will actually work to confirm why I am standing in the rain in the dark — because it is my right as a citizen to do so, a right I intend to defend.

And how did that local race turn out, the one the out-of-state PAC spent hundreds of thousands to influence? Their targeted candidate won anyway. They wasted all that money which might have been used in a positive cause to elect a good candidate somewhere else. Too bad for them.

Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Send comments to [email protected].

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